by German Lopez
In 16 states, there are more people in prisons and jails than in college housing.
This map by MetricMaps shows which states (blue) have more people in college housing and which states (red) have more people in correctional facilities:
One possible takeaway is that states keeping more inmates in prisons and jails than people in college housing arguably have poor priorities. College is still a great investment, with multiple studies showing higher education significantly increases people’s wages and economic output. Mass incarceration in the US long ago hit diminishing returns that make it an ineffective crime-fighting tool; an analysis by thePew Public Safety Performance Project found that the 10 states that shrank incarceration rates the most over the past five years saw bigger drops in crime than the 10 states where incarceration rates grew the most.
But the map doesn’t show that there are fewer people in college than in jail and prison. The entire US corrections population, which includes people in jail, prison, parole, and probation, totaled 6.9 million in 2013. In comparison, about 19.5 million people were enrolled for college that same year — but most students live off-campus.
So while criminal justice experts generally agree it’s long past time to reduce the number of Americans in jails and prisons, the map isn’t a perfect comparison. But it at least shows the US has a lot of jail and prison inmates.